Francis Bacon, Figure Study II, 1945-46.
A closer inspection of Bacon’s early painting by Skye Sherwin:
The screaming mouth and eyeless face of the sub-human creature in this painting make it unmistakably by Francis Bacon. It is an early work from 1946 – Figure Study II, created not long after his breakthrough, Three Studies For Figures At The Base of a Crucifixion. (This master of existential dread would famously suppress his previous efforts, destroying what he had and prohibiting the sale or exhibition of what had been sold.)
In what would become a typical set-up for Bacon, this crouching, bare, animal-man, seems penned in, overwhelmed by his clothes and the room in which he is enclosed. He has been reduced to base essentials — the violent maw, the grotesque sexualised head and limbs. All this figure can do is howl like an animal in agony — like the shrieking nurse from Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin or the colour photographs of diseased mouths in a dentistry book that famously obsessed the painter.